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The Time of Your Life

March 20, 2018 3 comments

On the day you were born, you began the journey through time to the day you will die. We rarely know what day our life will end unless we end it ourselves. A life can span over 100 years or as little as a day. You are reading this blog, so you still have the time of your death to come, sometime in the future.

All we are given in life is time. The time is ours to use as we wish: we can kill time, waste time, save time, or use time in any way that we choose. There is no doubt that the more we put into our life’s time, the more we get out of our life. The person who lives through a life of simple work just to acquire the money for a case of beer with which to waste a weekend will get little out of life.

The person that works in exchanging currencies or buying and selling stocks that might or might not support profitable enterprises might enjoy the climb toward oligarchy, but fail to experience the rich value of nature and genuine friendships. That person might enjoy yachting, which is a good way to experience nature. Or they might enjoy yacht racing, which would rob them of the opportunity to absorb the wonders of wind and water except as a competitive platform.

Each of us should appreciate the value of time. Quiet time spent reading a book is not a waste of time. Camping in a forest, sitting around a crackling fire is not a waste of time. Lying on a beach getting fried by the sun might very well be a useless waste of time, unless a deep tan is of value. It probably is not, except as a cosmetic enhancement. In fact, it might shorten your life through the destructive forces of excessive sunlight.

Working constantly in the pursuit of wealth cannot be called a waste of time. Neither is it the maximum good use of time if it is not interspersed with times of relaxation, family relationships and social interactions.

Use the time of your life wisely because it is all you are given when you’re born, and you don’t know when you might run out of time.

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Responsibilities and Illusions

March 8, 2018 Leave a comment

My father’s eldest brother was, by default, the head of the extended family. He was well worthy of the responsibility. He arrived in Canada with his parents and three of his four siblings. My father, the youngest in the family was born in Canada shortly after their arrival on the shores of North America.

The family was clearly respectful of the eldest son. He worked hard and studied hard and became a corporate lawyer. He had earned a million dollars while he was still young, and was wiped out in the crash of 1929. Undaunted, he continued his work ethic, and climbed back into wealth. Even as a respected lawyer, he carried his lunch to his office to which he walked until he had earned again his respectable fortune.

Many years passed, and he was always looked to as the family patriarch, leading us into respectable lives. As the patriarch, he was our religious leader as well. We did not see him often, but we followed his example all the same. We respected the religion which he advocated, and were satisfied that we were doing right.

There came a summer weekend when I was a young father. My father had bought a lovely lakeside cottage on an island in the Great Lakes for he and my mother as well as I and my brothers and our children to enjoy. I went to the island on a weekend when all the other members of our immediate family were otherwise occupied. I took my son and daughter and one of my nephews for a weekend of swimming, fishing, and sitting around a fire.

There was a phone in the island cottage through underwater lines. It was the 1960s, and there was not yet satellites circling the Earth, and cellphones would not be heard of until several decades later. The phone rang unexpectedly. When I answered, it was my father. He called to tell me that my uncle, my father’s eldest brother and the religious leader and patriarch of the family had suddenly died.

I asked Dad if I should pack up the kids and drive the three hours back home for the funeral and other rituals. To my surprise, he said no. He told me that my uncle had left written instruction in which he stated that he only acted the role of religious example for the family because he felt it was his responsibility. In his true, personal beliefs, he was an atheist, and wanted all of the religious rituals to be disregarded, and to just be simply cremated. Cremation is against our religion, and that was a strong statement of his personal beliefs.

The kids and I were left to enjoy a happy summer weekend. More importantly, my brothers and I, and our children and cousins were free to follow our own personal beliefs. I have always been an atheist, at least since I was about 18. It’s comfortable to be free of the burden of the absurdity of religious rituals.

Reading the Second Amendment

March 7, 2018 2 comments

The Second Amendment’s Syntax Permits Only One Reasonable Interpretation

by Sheldon Richman

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

—Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Is this sentence so hard to understand? Apparently so. Even some of its defenders don’t like how it is worded because it allegedly breeds misunderstanding.

But the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is indeed a well-crafted sentence. By that I mean that its syntax permits only one reasonable interpretation of the authors’ meaning, namely, that the people’s individual right to be armed ought to be respected and that the resulting armed populace will be secure against tyranny, invasion, and crime. Someone completely ignorant of the eighteenth-century American political debates but familiar with the English language should be able to make out the meaning easily.

My concern is not to demonstrate that what the amendment says is good policy, only that it says what it says. No other fair reading is possible.

The Competing Interpretation

Before proceeding, let’s understand the competing interpretation. As the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California put it, “The original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect the right of states to maintain militias.” Dennis Henigan of Handgun Control, Inc., says the amendment is “about the distribution of military power in a society between the federal government and the states. That’s all they [the Framers] were talking about.” As he put it elsewhere, “The Second Amendment guaranteed the right of the people to be armed as part of a ‘well regulated’ militia, ensuring that the arming of the state militia not depend on the whim of the central government” [emphasis added].

This interpretation is diametrically opposed to the view that says the amendment affirms the right of private individuals to have firearms. The ACLU, HCI, and others reject this, arguing that the amendment only affirms the right of the states to maintain militias or, today, the National Guard. These competing interpretations can’t both be right.

The first problem with the militia interpretation is that the amendment speaks of a right and, of course, the amendment appears in the Bill of Rights. (Powers with respect to the militia are enumerated in Articles I and II of the Constitution.) No other amendment of the original ten speaks of the States having rights. Nowhere, moreover, are rights recognized for government (which in the Framers’ view is the servant) but denied to the people (the masters). Henigan and company are in the untenable position of arguing that while the Framers used the term “the people” to mean individuals in the First (the right to assemble), Fourth (the right to be secure in persons, houses, papers, and effects), Ninth (unenumerated rights), and Tenth (reserved powers) Amendments, they suddenly used the same term to mean “the States” in the Second. That makes no sense.

More important, the diction and syntax of the amendment contradict Henigan’s argument. If the Framers meant to say that the States have a right to organize militias or that only people who are members of the militia have a right to guns, why would they say, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? The Framers were intelligent men with a good grasp of the language. As we can see from the Tenth Amendment, they were capable of saying “States” when they meant States and “people” when they meant people. They could have said, “The right of the States to organize and arm militias shall not be infringed,” though that would have contradicted Article I, Section 8, which delegated that power to the Congress. (Roger Sherman proposed such language, but it was rejected.) Or, they could have written, “The right of members of the state militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” though that would have contradicted Article I, Section 9, which forbids the States to “keep Troops . . . in time of Peace.” They didn’t write it that way. They wrote “the people,” without qualification. (The Supreme Court said in the 1990 case U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez that “the people” has the same meaning—individuals—throughout the Bill of Rights.)

But, say the gun controllers, what of that opening phrase, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”? Here’s where we have to do some syntactical analysis. James Madison’s original draft reversed the order of the amendment: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country.” Perhaps this version makes Madison’s thought more clear. His sentence implies that the way to achieve the well-armed and well-regulated militia that is necessary to the security of a free state is to recognize the right of people to own guns. In other words, without the individual freedom to own and carry arms, there can be no militia. As to the term “well regulated,” it does not refer to government regulation. This can be seen in Federalist 29, where Alexander Hamilton wrote that a militia acquired “the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia” by going “through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary.”

What the Syntax Tells Us

How do we know that the “well regulated militia” is defined in terms of an armed populace and not vice versa? The syntax of the sentence tells us. Madison and his colleagues in the House of Representatives chose to put the militia reference into a dependent phrase. They picked the weakest possible construction by using the participle “being” instead of writing, say, “Since a well regulated militia is necessary. . . .” Their syntax keeps the militia idea from stealing the thunder of what is to come later in the sentence. Moreover, the weak form indicates that the need for a militia was offered not as a reason (or condition) for prohibiting infringement of the stated right but rather as the reason for enumerating the right in the Bill of Rights. (It could have been left implicit in the Ninth Amendment, which affirms unenumerated rights.)

All of this indicates the highly dependent and secondary status of the phrase. Dependent on what? The main, independent clause, which emphatically and unequivocally declares that the people’s right to have guns “shall not be infringed.” (Note: the amendment presupposes the right; it doesn’t grant it.)

Let’s go at this from another direction. Imagine that a Borkian inkblot covers the words “well regulated militia.” All we have is: “A [inkblot] being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” To make an intelligent guess about the obscured words, we would have to reason from the independent clause back to the dependent phrase. We would know intuitively that the missing words must be consistent with the people having the right to keep and bear arms. In fact, anything else would be patently ridiculous. Try this: “A well-regulated professional standing army (or National Guard) being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That sentence would bewilder any honest reader. He’d ask why such unlike elements were combined in one sentence. It makes no sense. It’s a non sequitur.

Imagine the deliberations of the Committee of Eleven, the group of House members to which Madison’s proposed bill of rights was referred. Assume that one member says, “We should have an amendment addressing the fact that the way to achieve the well-regulated militia that is necessary to the security of a free state is for the national government to respect the right of the States to organize and arm militias.” “No,” replies another member. “The amendment should reflect the fact that the way to achieve the well-regulated militia that is necessary to the security of a free state is for the government to respect the people’s right to bear arms.” If both members were told to turn their declarative sentences into the imperative form appropriate to a bill of rights, which one would have come up with the language that became the Second Amendment? The question answers itself.

The Committee of Eleven reversed the elements of Madison’s amendment. But that, of course, did not change the meaning, only the emphasis. In fact, the reversal made it a better sentence for the Bill of Rights. As adopted, the amendment begins by quickly putting on the record the most important reason for its inclusion in the Bill of Rights but without dwelling on the matter; that’s what the weak participle, “being,” accomplishes. The sentence then moves on to the main event: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The Framers correctly intuited that in a Bill of Rights, the last thing the reader should have ringing in his mind’s ear is the absolute prohibition on infringement of the natural right to own guns.

I am not suggesting that the Framers said explicitly that the militia reference should go into a dependent participial phrase so that future readers would know that it takes its meaning from the independent clause. They didn’t need to do that. To be fluent in English means that one intuits the correct syntax for the occasion and purpose at hand. Much knowledge of a language is tacit. We have to assume that the Framers knew what they were saying.

What Language Experts Say

This analysis is seconded by two professional grammarians and usage experts. In 1991, author J. Neil Schulman submitted the text of the Second Amendment to A. C. Brocki, editorial coordinator of the Office of Instruction of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a former senior editor for Houghton Mifflin, and Roy Copperud, now deceased, the author of several well-regarded usage books and a member of the American Heritage Dictionary usage panel. Brocki and Copperud told Schulman that the right recognized in the amendment is unconditional and unrestricted as to who possesses it.

Asked if the amendment could be interpreted to mean that only the militia had the right, Brocki replied, “No, I can’t see that.” According to Copperud, “The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people.” As to the relation of the militia to the people, Schulman paraphrased Brocki as saying, “The sentence means that the people are the militia, and that the people have the right which is mentioned.” On this point, Copperud, who was sympathetic to gun control, nevertheless said, “The right to keep and bear arms is asserted as essential for maintaining the militia.”

It is also important to realize that, as a matter of logic, the opening phrase does not limit the main clause. As the legal scholar and philosopher Stephen Halbrook has argued, although part one of the amendment implies part two, it does not follow that if part one doesn’t obtain, part two is null and void. The sentence “The earth being flat, the right of the people to avoid ocean travel shall not be infringed” does not imply that if the earth is round, people may be compelled to sail. The Framers would not have implied that a right can properly be infringed; to call something a right is to say that no infringement is proper. As another philosopher and legal scholar, Roger Pilon, has written, the amendment implies that the need for a militia is a sufficient but not a necessary condition for forbidding infringement of the right to have firearms. The sentence also tells us that an armed populace is a necessary condition for a well-regulated militia.

Superfluous Commas

A word about punctuation: most reproductions of the Second Amendment contain a plethora of commas: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But according to the American Law Division of the Library of Congress, this is not how the amendment was punctuated in the version adopted by Congress in 1789 and ratified by the States. That version contained only one comma, after the word state which, by the way, was not uppercased in the original, indicating a generic political entity as opposed to the particular States of the Union. If the superfluous commas have confused people about the amendment’s meaning, that cause of confusion is now removed.

One need not resort to historical materials to interpret the Second Amendment, because it is all there in the text. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to point out that history supports, and in no way contradicts, that reading. Gun ownership was ubiquitous in eighteenth-century America, and the Founding Fathers repeatedly acknowledged the importance of an armed citizenry. They also stated over and over that the militia is, as George Mason, the acknowledged father of the Bill of Rights, put it, “the whole people.” Madison himself, in Federalist 46, sought to assuage the fears of the American people during the ratification debate by noting that an abusive standing army “would be opposed [by] a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands.” That would have comprised the entire free adult male population at the time. There’s no question that at the center of the American people’s tacit ideology was the principle that, ultimately, they could not delegate the right of self-defense to anyone else and thus they were responsible for their own safety.

Perhaps the deterioration of American education is illustrated by the high correlation between the number of years a person has attended school and his inability to understand the words “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It is more likely, though, that those who interpret the Second Amendment to preclude an individual right to own guns are driven by their political agenda. Whichever the case, they do themselves no credit when they tell us that a simple, elegant sentence means the opposite of what it clearly says.

Sheldon Richman

Sheldon Richman is the former editor of The Freeman and a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America’s Families and thousands of articles.

To Avoid Survivors’ Agony

February 28, 2018 Leave a comment

Here in Canada, we look down over the border to the United States and ask ourselves, “What do they need with all those guns?” It’s a terrible misuse of their second amendment. It doesn’t say everybody has a gun. Even though it was written at a time when there was danger from warring tribes and wild animals, the founders did not say, “The more guns the better.” They said a specified number of people, in an organized group to protect the citizens, should be armed.

Too many ladies, shopping for groceries like the hundreds around her, have loaded handguns in their purses. Too many cars have handguns in their glove boxes. We see nice people casually taking their firearms before leaving their homes, and they treat it as casually as Kleenex or lipstick.

A gun is neither a tissue nor a cosmetic. It is a precision piece of equipment that has a sole purpose; to fire a hot projectile with a degree of accuracy. It might be aimed at a target by a qualified gun owner, or it might be aimed at an irritating spouse, or a threatening thief, or a young couple out for a walk beneath the moon. The more guns in an area, the more likely it is that potential for tragedy is in that area.

In Canada, it’s almost heartbreaking to attempt to acquire a gun. I once did it to see how it goes. I had to present myself to a sheriff’s office, and to a police station to be interviewed each time. Two plain clothes police officials paid a surprise visit to my home at a random time of their choosing. We didn’t know they were coming. They were there to see if the normal family household was a safe, sane environment, and evaluate the quality of our relationship. That was just for a long gun like a .22 or something like that. A similar rigmarole is required to purchase ammunition. I eventually acquired a lovely Winchester 30-30 lever action, but have never fired it. It’s just a lovely object.

Do the numbers. The population in Canada is roughly 10% of the population in the USA. We might logically expect shootings to be roughly 10% of those in the USA. Not so. Canada’s shootings are approximately 1% of those in the USA. That means that the USA suffers 10 times more shootings than it should tolerate.

We hope the USA teenagers band together, diminish the NRA, and get sensible laws passed. Kids can do more than you might think. It was the teens in Hungary that finally drove the occupying forces of Russia out of their country in 1956. The kids are stronger than the idiotic so called president and his wimp-suck band of bandits.

Faking It

February 25, 2018 Leave a comment

Some people take on the preferences of the person or people they want to attract. This is reckless. If the person you wish to attract is not aligned with your ideas of what life should be like, and how it is enjoyed, it is unwise to fake, or pretend that you fit in with their preferred style and activities.

I know a woman in her fifties who is uncomfortable about her body. She encountered a man she with whom she hoped to spend time. She succeeded in having him invite her for a weekend away in a country setting. She accepted eagerly, although she is not a fan of the great outdoors, and usually avoids situations in forest settings or cottage country.

When they arrived in a remote, secluded area, the gentleman set up his camping equipment beside a gently flowing river. The setting was beautiful, but the beauty of the environment was lost on the woman. She did manage, however, to accept the basics of sleeping in a tent in a sleeping bag. Even watching him cook dinner on an open fire was not too difficult for her to endure. The night passed uneventfully, as the zipped-up sleeping bags kept them isolated from each other.

Morning came warm, dry and sunny. The woman crawled painfully out of her insulating sleeping bag as she noticed the gentleman was already gone from his bag. She heard the fire crackling and smelled bacon frying cheerfully in a pan on the open fire. She emerged from the tent well covered by her loose-fitting garment that hid the shape within that was an embarrassment to her.

She did her best to enjoy the bacon and eggs on her tin plate, and the cream free coffee in the tin mug. Their conversation was cordial as the gentleman was patiently aware of the woman’s misgivings. All went well as the meal was enjoyed as much as possible in the surroundings that were very unfamiliar and awkward to the woman. When the meal was completed and utensils were washed by the host in the adjacent flowing river, the woman was overwhelmed by his next suggestion.

He said he was eager to enjoy the cool, clear water, and with barely a pause he stripped down to be completely naked. He stood in the morning sun by the river’s edge and enjoyed the feeling of unfettered freedom. The woman, although somewhat aghast, couldn’t help but notice that he had a very attractive body for a man in his fifties.

He strode into the river carefully on the slippery stones on the bottom and dove into the current. He emerged with his longish hair slicked back and urged emphatically that she should join him. After some rather insistent urging, she humiliated herself by finally stripping down, doing her best to keep hidden by the surrounding foliage. Ashamed as she was of her drooping breasts, heavy thighs, and sagging backside, she dashed from behind a bush into the water.

Unfamiliar as she was with the country life, she stepped on the slippery rocks in the water and fell heavily on her very white, bulbous backside in the shallows. Her flabby breasts swayed loosely as the gentleman hurried carefully to help her up. The water was cold, and her large nipples grew erect as she moved desperately to deeper water. She sank to her knees and immersed herself up to her neck in the flowing current.

The gentleman chose to overlook the woman’s physical imperfections, and implored her to join him in a swim. She dared not move, and the man indulged himself until he was satisfied with the activity. Standing straight, tall, and unashamed, he strode out of the water and lay back on a folding chair to let the sun warm and dry him.

While he relaxed, eyes closed against the brilliant sunshine, the woman crawled over the rocks and out of the water. She moved swiftly behind the foliage and found a towel in the tent. She dried and dressed herself and joined the gentleman in the warming sun. They spoke little, and she was wishing she knew what he was thinking of her.

The weekend was cut short, as the relationship potential was properly gone. The gentleman went about closing down his campsite and stashing it all in the car trunk. On the drive home the pair was almost silent, with few words exchanged. While she berated herself in her mind for having been so hasty, the gentleman did the same to himself.

When he dropped her at her apartment house, he stepped around the car as she exited it. They shook hands, and he said he’d call her. She knew he never would, and she was glad of that.

SUMMER DAYS

January 9, 2018 Leave a comment

Poetry form: (PROSE 1)

[1]

NOT A BEACH DAY

Round stones and dark, loose dirt forced several inches of backslide after each step upward. The struggle was an essential part of the adventure for the pubescent girl, and she laboured up the long abandoned trail almost every day of every summer at Sanctuary Bay. Her thin legs, seeming too long for her tiny torso, carried her upward in a staggering rhythm as she picked spots to place her feet.

[2]

SURRENDER IN THE FOREST

The higher up she struggled, the darker and cooler the forest became. The trees closed in close around the narrow trail, and the thrill began to permeate every cell and sentiment within the child. Her heart pounded in her narrow chest, the blood rushed in her ears, and she almost trembled with ecstasy as she gave herself up to the comforting security of aloneness. Minute sounds and scents were clear and rich to her in this aroused state. She let the familiar feelings fill her, thrill her in that peculiar way that she was certain no other person ever felt. She tingled somewhere down inside. She felt the heat flush in her pale cheeks; felt the burning of her ears.

[3]

SANCTUARY WITHIN

She lay down on the warm, dry carpet of golden brown leaves. It was thick and springy after centuries of accumulated autumns. The rich, pungent fragrance of ancient forest filled her little lungs, enriched her coursing blood. Thirty meters above, the leafy canopy swayed in the high lake breeze. Flashes of sunlight flickered over her slight, prone figure. She closed her eyes and felt the peace of sanctuary descend upon her.

Individual Liberty

November 29, 2017 2 comments

I have a lot of life behind me. Not only because I’ll turn eighty next year, but because most of those years have been lived “out of the box”. I’ve had wives, children, mortgages, businesses, family vacations and all that stuff. That was one part of my life that was the most wrong part. I should never have been a regular suburban husband and father. I did it pretty well, although it took great effort because I was not really suited to the role.

I now realize that I should have followed my bohemian instincts. Instead of living inside the box of affluence that I was in with my parents and brothers, I should have left the family home, acquired a job of some kind, and earned my way through Art College. It was my error, my weakness. My father provided me with sports cars, speed boats, tailors, charge accounts and all. Not many eighteen-year-olds could walk away from that. I think, in some ways, I’d have lived a richer life if my parents had been poor and mean, but they weren’t.

Now I realize I should have worked pumping gas, or in a convenience store, or as a waiter or parking lot attendant. I would have met a variety of characters, girls who shared my creative nature and guys from varied backgrounds. I wouldn’t have to spend so much time now, in retirement, teaching myself how to draw.

Don’t struggle to live the life your parents want you to live, if it’s not the life you’d choose for yourself. In the end, staying true to yourself is the only path to personal satisfaction and inner comfort. I followed my own path after I finally broke free of my heritage, and have had many satisfying decades of life, more varied than that of most people with a PhD. Still, I wish I’d claimed my individual liberty earlier in my life.